Delivering personal thermal preference in an open plan office has eluded building design professionals for years. Surveys have shown that being too hot or cold is the number one complaint for people in offices. The challenge is to deliver different thermal conditions for occupants who sit only 5 feet apart in such a way that meets aesthetic, cost, and energy constraints. Recent developments in Power over Ethernet, the Internet of Things, mobile and wearable devices, and small-scale energy harvesting represent a paradigm shift in how we think about building occupant experience. At the same time, there is increasing attention on the importance of indoor air quality, challenging designers to improve ventilation effectiveness.
The results of a personal air control pilot study at a New York City office in which ten occupants were able to regulate overhead cooling via web browser included collaboration with a mechanical contractor to price different personal office air designs relative to a base scheme for ground-up construction and fit-outs. Context of other recent efforts in personal thermal control, as well as an analysis of the various cost, aesthetic, and energy implications of providing microthermal zones at scale are provided. Consideration of the results includes a discussion of initial CFD modeling vs. empirical data from survey results and sensors. The influence of technology trends on the further development of these systems, and individual desk air control are examined in the context of how they impact building infrastructure requirements.